Everyone feels the tragedy, but few actually know the people who were hurt.
Mary Reed was one of the people shot in Tucson last Saturday. She was standing in line with her 17 year-old daughter, Emma, to thank Congresswoman Giffords for sponsoring her as a Congressional Page last summer. Mary and Emma were chatting with the couple in front of them, who had asked Emma where she would like to go to college. Without warning came the sound of an automatic weapon -- like you hear on TV or at the movies.
Mary describes what happened next:
"I was shot three times – in both arms and mid-back. I also have three shrapnel wounds – two on my leg and one on my face. And, I am OK . . . my guardian angel was working overtime. The bullets pierced no major veins or arteries, no organs, nor any bone. I am blessed. I will carry all three bullets with me, as it is more dangerous to remove them. When the gunshots went off, I pinned my daughter to the wall under me and my husband ran with my son. Emma and I were standing next to, and talking with the man who died shielding his wife.
My son and daughter took turns pressing on my back wound with a cloth for the hour of triage before I was transported. This means my children witnessed four people dying within six feet of us. Please pray with me for my family, Gabrielle Giffords, the families of people who died, the people who are injured, the shooter, and our country. I am praying that this level of rage and hate never touches your lives."
Mary didn’t die, so her picture wasn’t splashed immediately on the front page of the “New York Times” or strung across CNN as breaking news. How do I know her story? We are friends on Facebook.
I haven’t seen Mary since we graduated from Clear Lake High School in May 1976, but she friended me a couple of years ago. You too may have had the experience of people from long ago extending an invitation of friendship when you haven’t spoken in decades; in fact, some of my Facebook friends from high school have never spoken to me. We connect because we lived our lives in proximity for a while, marked by a particular time in a particular place that cannot ever be fully understood by people who weren’t there.
Now Mary’s life is marked by an unforgettable public event in Tucson, AZ on January 8, 2011. She and her family have a changed life that none of us will ever fully understand. But as soon as it was known she had been shot, one friend set up a Friends of Mary page, and another (who is a virtual pastor of the Clear Lake High School alums on Facebook) starting linking people to it. The words and prayers and offerings remind me of all the flowers, teddy bears and candles placed at the sites of violent death. These are the rituals of mourning in a culture where everyone feels the tragedy but few actually know the people who were hurt. Through Facebook, we each express sorrow to Mary, give words of encouragement to shore her up, and we say in front of each other—we testify—that what happened was wrong.
Lots of my high school Facebook friends have posted they are praying for Mary and her family and several, like Mary, have asked for prayers for the shooter as well. Given what the Pima County Sherriff named, accurately in my view, as an environment of vitriol, I am amazed to hear people asking for prayers for the shooter. That is soul-restoring.
I don’t think my high school Facebook friends and I will mobilize for action against violent rhetoric or form a coalition for political reconciliation. But for a moment in a particular time and place, the Class of 76 shared something again--compassion. This way comes the grace of God.